I had attended Camp Carol Joy Holling about six times while in my youth and I knew from my first week there that I wanted to be a counselor when I was of age. Finally, after a year of college I was able to apply. I had very specific expectations of what I would be doing. I would lead middle-schoolers on a week of spiritual growth, questioning, and fun. We would have amazing devotions at night. We would discuss the pitfalls and joys of navigating Middle School. At the end of the week we would all take pictures together and they would glue my face in their scrapbooks and years from now look back on their time at camp as a milestone in their life.
Camp was I no way what I expected. I had planned on imparting all the knowledge I had gained through my own walk of faith, instead my campers put a complete curve in my own path. They taught me how to live out all the lessons I already knew.
I was assigned week after week to CrossWalk. CrossWalk is a day camp program for people with disabilities; a program I hadn't even known existed. Thus, I found myself working with campers age 13 to age 80. Some simply had learning disabilities while others were in need of total care. I only spent one week on location at camp, the others I spent traveling around to group homes and residence facilities. Since many of the campers were unable to get the care needed at camp we brought camp to them.
Working with the disabled is something I never pictured myself doing, or even having the capacity to do. But I know that it was what I was meant to do this summer. It has changed the way I perceive life. Many people have asked me if working with the disabled has made me appreciative of all the blessings I have: complete physical capacity, “normal” mental capacity, social abilities. I get a sick feeling in my stomach when they ask this because what they don't realize is that at the end of each day I felt like the person who was lacking. I fail to recognize the wonder of God's love. I lack the courage to openly speak with strangers of God's influence in my life. I sing praise songs quietly instead of belting them out at the top of my lungs! I judge others. The people I worked with showed me how to do this. They taught me innumerable and immeasurable lessons.
When I finished my summer at camp I had two weeks at home before school started. In light of all I learned this summer I took this time to evaluate my own life. I thought about the gifts I had been given and how I could best utilize those. The two most notable changes in my life are that I switched to an economics major. I realized while working at the group home that I want to work in public policy helping to provide opportunity and security for these people. Secondly each new day I find myself looking at the world and trying to see it through their eyes. I try to appreciate the beauty of the grass and the love of those around me.
This summer changed my life and I am so grateful for receiving the Lilly Grant. I don't know if it would have been possible without them.